For the last several days, Mo’Nique and Lee Daniels have been revisiting a conversation they had privately years ago in public spaces. This rehash of history started with Mo’Nique informing The Hollywood Reporter that director Lee Daniels told her after winning an Oscar for a role she played in his film Precious that she had been “blackballed.” The reason: “Because you didn’t play the game.”
This includes “making unreasonable demands” like requesting compensation for participating in promotion of the film as well as not being particularly gracious to those that worked on Precious. There have been other reasons cited from third parties about her alleged bad attitude, not to mention that of her husband and manager, Sidney Hicks. In “About That Time Mo’Nique’s Husband Threatened Me…And Why Hollywood Blackballed Them,” Sian-Pierre Regis recounts how Hicks called him and proceeded to yell at him and threaten to get him fired for attempting to do a segment on the designer dressing Mo’Nique for the Oscars.
Lee Daniels has since chimed in himself.
Speaking with CNN’s Don Lemon, Daniels characterized Mo’Nique has “brilliant” and that he enjoys “working with brilliant people,” but when on to say:
“She was making unreasonable demands, and she wasn’t thinking — this was when reverse racism was happening, I think. I told her, ‘You have to thank the producers of the film, you have to thank the studios.’ And I think she didn’t understand that, and I said, ‘People aren’t going to respond well if you don’t.
This is not just ‘show’. It’s ‘show business.’ And you’ve gotta play ball, and you can’t scream — I don’t like calling the race card. I don’t believe in it. If I buy into it, it becomes real. If I knew what I knew when I was 21, I wouldn’t be where I’m at right now.”
Blah. “Reverse racism” is meaningless term typically employed by clueless white people who enjoy playing a tit-for-tat game with respect to prejudice. Secondly, how is being demanding and perhaps, not especially gracious, related to racism or any form of prejudice? Lee Daniels has a knack for just saying things that may sound true within the confines of his own mind, but are not in any way truthful in the world the rest of us live in.
You know, like him perpetuating myths about “down low men” sleeping with every Frank Ocean and Jazmine Sullivan around, spreading the AIDS all willy nilly — despite such crocks invented on daytime TV being debunked years ago.
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The conversation gets worse, though, because he is after all, talking to Don Lemon. The anchor, so eager about this sort of subject, responded to Daniels’ remarks with, “Some people call that ‘selling out.’” To which Daniels replied, “Well, I guess I’m a sellout.”
Then comes this: “But I’m not going to not work, and I’m not going to not tell my truth. And I’m not going to call people out on their bull. So whatever that means, sell out. I’ll see you in the theaters.”
This man makes my head hurt. Daniels just said in so many words that when it comes to discussing racism, if you just go “la-la-la-la, no ‘race card pulling here’” that you can evade the issue at hand. Yet, not calling a thing a thing won’t make it any less real.
If Daniels doesn’t want to place himself in that position so be it. However, he has expressed the challenges of being a filmmaker in the past, so glossing over the role race plays in all that hasn’t seem to have made his life any better. Creating a Black soap opera on a network in desperate need of a hit surely did, though.
Mo’Nique did respond to Daniels in a separate interview with Don Lemon, proving that if she didn’t know how to play the game then, she’s a learned a thing or two about playing it now. Nonetheless, whatever did or did not do in Mo’Nique, it seems to be an issue of attitude, not “reverse racism.”
Spare us your silly projections, Mr. Daniels.